Increasing your visibility when applying for board seats
This is the fourth step in the Athena Guide to Land a Board Seat. Read the full guide for additional tips and stories of how Athena helps women leaders rise into the boardroom.
Once you know your goals, your value, and go-to-market strategy, and you have an updated Branded Career Portfolio, you are well-positioned to put yourself out there for a board seat. Achieving a board seat takes time — it can take two to three years for even the most qualified candidates. It’s important to get comfortable with the idea that it’s a long game, and that networking and increasing your visibility are more important now than ever before.
Networking to a board seat
85% of corporate board seats are achieved through networking. Your most fruitful efforts will be from those connections that you’ve spent years building with intention and purpose. Think of those people as your allies — those connections are the ones who can vouch for your leadership and character and refer you to open opportunities.
When networking to a board seat, consider:
- Sharing your goals with your entire existing network. Let them know you’re interested in board work. Ask them to keep you in mind if they hear of open opportunities, or if they themselves have an open opportunity.
- Sharing your value proposition. You’ve put in the work to create your value proposition — now it’s time to make it work for you. Confidently share your value, and the types of boards you believe you’ll be the best fit for.
- Asking how you can be of service. Giving to others — through advice, speaking opportunities, consulting, and mentoring — can pay off in spades. Giving and receiving should be bidirectional. If you’re asking for help, make sure you’re able to give as well.
- Leveraging LinkedIn. But if you do ask for a mutual connection to introduce you to an influencer via LinkedIn, make sure you give them a pre-written script. Making it easier for your connections to introduce you to others is key to success.
- Engaging venture capital and private equity firms. Focusing your efforts on the private company ecosystem is an efficient way to improve your chances of landing a board seat. Public companies and large private companies will often engage with search firms to recruit new board directors.
Making yourself more visible to achieve a board seat
Interact with board recruiters, enroll in board registries, and work with board management firms. Be thoughtful and intentional with every single interaction: should a recruiter contact you for an executive role, be sure to let them know you’re interested in board work; network with board search practitioners; ask your network to refer to you if they are contacted for a board director role they are not interested in themselves.
Another way to gain visibility is to get more attention through the right speaking engagements or media opportunities. Get the right people to notice you and your thought leadership. Be sure to share (and re-share numerous times!) your content across all social channels to maximize your visibility.
Proactively applying to board opportunities
Yes, you can proactively apply to opportunities . Keep in mind that you’ll be asked for your most recent resume and bio. You can apply for opportunities through organizations like Athena Alliance, Nurole, Diligent, and AboveBoard.
When you apply to a board opportunity, you’ll need to craft a well-written “pitch” (cover letter) for each and every application. Your pitches should be tailored to the specific opportunity, explaining how your expertise makes you the ideal candidate. Generic pitches are likely to be ignored or rejected. Pitches should be approximately 250 words and include as many metrics as possible.
How Athena helps women expand their networks in pursuit of a board seat
Athena member Barbara Troupin came to Athena with the goal of achieving a public company board seat. She had her sights set on an industry networking event coming up in four months. She expedited her process by working with Athena’s writers to develop her Branded Career Portfolio and worked with Athena’s coaches to solidify her networking strategy.
Even checking all the right boxes as a board director, Barbara faced rejection after rejection. But finally, three years later, her commitment to stewarding her network paid off .
“I was interviewing for an executive role with the company’s chairman, who is a well-known, well-respected biotech CEO,” Barbara said. “He sits on the Nom/Gov Committee for Equillium and introduced me to the company. It even turned out that I knew their executive chairman. The investor on the board used to be a research analyst in life sciences covering companies I worked with. Those connections were incredibly helpful in building trust.”
Athena supports members through every aspect of the networking and board application process. Members can connect with other members (any time) for networking and mentorship, but we also host Salons dedicated to networking. These Salons include a wide range of members and non-members, serving as a thoughtful way to widen your circle. And, at members’ request, we ensure you’re enrolled in the right board databases and marketplaces such as Nurole, Diligent, and AboveBoard. We can coach you on working with recruiters, as well. When you’re ready, we encourage you to apply to a wide range of board opportunities through Athena.
Download the Athena Guide to Land a Board Seat to read all five steps aspiring directors should take to get boardroom-ready. Ready to get started on your board journey? Join Athena to unlock the entire Path to the Boardroom pathway.